The Mariners Blew The Minnesota Home Opener

There was a time early last season when I took it upon myself to try and track the numbers for Mariners hitters with RISP.  That was because the M’s started off abnormally bad in this area, and I was curious to see how bad it could get, or how long that badness would remain.  Those numbers started to normalize as we got into late April and May, but for a while there, it was pretty dire!  And the team really struggled as a result.

I don’t know if that’s been as big of an issue thus far, through a week’s worth of games, but a performance like yesterday (2/17 with RISP) is pretty much as bad as it gets.  The Mariners were getting on base like crazy yesterday, with 8 hits, 4 walks, and 2 Twins errors.  There were only 2 clean innings for the Twins’ pitching staff/defense, and yet the Mariners were only able to muster 2 fucking runs, both in the first inning.  Pathetic, all the way around, and a game the Mariners absolutely should’ve won, Cruz or no Cruz.

For a while there, it looked like we might pull it out.  Paxton was dealing through five innings.  But, getting into that third time through the lineup, Joe Mauer singled to lead off the bottom of the sixth, and Miguel Sano smashed him in with a 2-run jack.  It’s funny how much lip service the Mariners were paying to this notion of limiting the exposure of our starting pitching, and utilizing this massive bullpen we’ve accumulated.  But, Scott Servais has really just been managing like every other fucking manager since the dawn of time.  We’re in the midst of 4 off days in 2 weeks; there will never be this many rest days outside of the All Star Break the rest of the season.  Also, we’re rocking a 4-man rotation, which means we have an 8-man bullpen.  No one as of yet has been worked to death.  And we ALL know the numbers of just about every single hitter when he sees the same pitcher for the third time in a game.  And yeah, I get it, Paxton’s pitch count was low, and he was kicking ass up to that point.  But, how many times do you see that?  It happens ALL THE TIME.  Guys dominate, then they get into the 6th inning or whatever, and all of a sudden the other team is hitting tee shots off of him.  All it takes is a weird bloop single and one bad pitch that catches too much of the plate, and BAM, 2-run home run.  A 2-0 game becomes a 2-2 game.  Then, you try to squeeze an extra few outs out of Dan Altavilla, and BAM again, you’re down 3-2.  Then, the stupid fucking umpire botches an OBVIOUS called strike 3, followed by the hitter taking that gift and turning it into another solo homer on the very next pitch, and BAM, it’s 4-2 and you’re sucking Fernando Rodney’s arrow-shaped dick in the ninth.

Just stop pissing down my leg and telling me it’s raining, that’s all.  If you’re going to talk about lightening the loads of these starting pitchers, then STICK TO IT!  Pull them after the second time through the lineup (unless the offense has it out of reach, but only walk that tightrope if we have a 3 run lead or more).  THIS IS WHERE THE GAME IS GOING!  Shorter starting stints, and supplement that with longer bullpen arms.  Altavilla is never going to be a competent multi-inning reliever; he’s a 1-and-done guy.  I’m talking about having more Wade LeBlancs, more Casey Lawrences, and save those hyper-power arms for the 8th and 9th innings.

One more note about the offense before I close this out.  8 hits, none of them for extra bases.  That’s fucking absurd.  I know with Cruz and Zunino out, our power is limited, but where are the doubles?  Yeah, it’s nice that Vogelbach had 2 more hits to add to his hot start, but where’s the power?  What about Jean Segura?  He had 30+ doubles the last two years; he’s got 2 through 6 games so far.  And Ryon Healy, so help me God, what a fucking BUST this guy is!  WHOSE DICK DO YOU GOTTA SUCK TO BRING IN EVEN A DECENT-HITTING FIRST BASEMAN???  Also, you still spell your name like a fucking asshole.

Another Friday off-day.  Cool.

The Mariners Had Their Asses Handed To Them In San Francisco

Look, this just isn’t going to be the greatest road trip in the history of the world unless the pitching shows up.

The Mariners are 2-1 since Nelson Cruz was injured, but don’t let the winning record in the small sample size fool you.  This team is severely hamstrung without their best power hitter locking down the middle of that lineup.  Haniger and Cano, God bless ’em, are doing the lord’s work driving in runs; as are Gordon and Segura, getting on base.  But everyone Seager and below in the lineup is pretty mediocre right now, and I don’t care if you’re the cluster-luckiest team in all of Major League Baseball, you’re not going to win many games with only 4 guys producing.  Thankfully, the stupid series with the Giants is over after only 2 games, so we don’t have to suffer our stupid pitchers trying to swing a bat again until the middle of July.

Of course, you’re not going to win many games if your starting pitcher gives up 8 runs in 4 innings either.  It hurts my heart whenever King Felix struggles, so I’m not going to dwell on it too much.  I mean, what sort of cold-hearted bastard gets mad at Old Yeller for succumbing to rabies; IT’S NOT HIS FAULT ALSO I’M NOT CRYING YOU’RE THE ONE WHO IS CRYING!

We had a less-than-stellar James Pazos sighting, as well as an inning-gobbling appearance out of Wade LeBlanc to save the rest of our bullpen ahead of today’s sub-freezing game in Minnesota.

On the hitting side of things, guys sort of got theirs, but Johnny Cueto did an excellent job of spreading out the damage and avoiding the big inning (which, unfortunately, with zero command of his fastball, Felix couldn’t match).  Gordon and Cano both had a couple singles apiece; Haniger had a hit and two walks to rub it in everyone’s faces that he’s got the best approach at the plate right now; Mike Marjama had the first hit of his 2018 season (and a double to boot); but Dan Vogelbach was the star of the show (so to speak), with his two hits, including an RBI double (the only run the Mariners would score all day).

Look, these things happen, and I get that.  But, as I’ve been preaching all week, this team is in desperate need of the bottom of its lineup to start pulling its weight.  I hope, like I’ve never hoped before, that we eventually get to see this team at full strength, with Cruz, Zunino, and Gamel all back to full strength and starting everyday (along with all the other starters we have going now).  I have no doubt Cruz is a major upgrade over anyone else at DH; same with Zunino over anyone else at Catcher; same with Gamel over the likes of Ichiro or Heredia in left field.  At that point, I think the weakest part of the lineup is at first base, and I’m not so sure we wouldn’t be better off with Vogelbach getting the lion’s share of starts over there (with Healy in a strict platoon against left-handed pitching).

Also, I’ll say this:  if Ichiro doesn’t get hot at the plate in a hurry, I think he could be waived just as soon as Gamel is ready to come off the DL.  Clock’s ticking for our Hall of Famer; I hope the Mariners do the right thing here.

My 2-Part Mariners Preview: My Expectations For 2018

Wish in one hand, shit in the other.  You get the idea.

And so here we are, Opening Day.  We’re all overflowing with optimism.  Well, not all of us.  Super annoying baseball fans are overflowing with optimism, but what do they know?  They’re just excited baseball’s back, as if it’s not the longest death march every fucking year.  Six months of this shit, plus a month of playoffs (or, hell, maybe more).  It starts today and lasts the rest of our fucking lives.

You want my opinion on the 2018 season?  MOOD.

I dunno, I feel like I’ve written this same exact fucking preview every year for the last decade.  Honestly, I can see this season going one of two ways:  either the Mariners do shock the world and break the playoff-less streak, or they completely and totally fall apart and end up with a Top 5 draft pick next year.  I don’t think there’s a middle-ground, at all.  And, if I were a betting man, I’d bet the ol’ farm on the latter.

So, let’s get into it.  Let’s talk about the plan; the bundle of twine and duct tape holding the season together.  Let’s see how Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais try to MacGyver their way to contention.

The Rotation

  • Felix Hernandez
  • James Paxton
  • Mike Leake
  • Marco Gonzales
  • Erasmo Ramirez
  • Ariel Miranda
  • Andrew Moore
  • Rob Whalen
  • Chase De Jong
  • Wade LeBlanc
  • Hisashi Iwakuma?

Normally, I just hit you with a 5-man rotation (in this case, the top five names, whenever Ramirez gets healthy), but why bother stopping there?  Ramirez is ALREADY injured, and while they say they won’t need the fifth spot in the rotation until April 11th or some damn thing, you know he won’t be healthy by then, so that puts Ariel Miranda (blessedly starting the season in Tacoma, where he belongs) in line for at least one start.  Quite frankly, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if he’s called up sooner than April 11th because someone ELSE got injured.  I’m looking at Felix, I’m looking at Paxton, I’m looking at Marco Gonzales.  Pick your poison!

And believe me, they’re all poison.  I’d start aligning your expectations with mine pretty soon, because there’s no saving this rotation.  It’s abysmal.  Felix is not the Felix of old and he’s never going to be.  He’s going to give up annoying dingers with his nothing fastball, he’s going to walk a ton of guys because hitters have been told to lay off the changeup, and he’ll kinda sorta keep the Mariners in a lot of games, but only if the offense comes to play.

Paxton is great, but obviously can’t stay healthy and never will.  It’s always some damn thing, and the saving grace has always been that it’s never anything really serious.  It’s never a bad shoulder or elbow injury … but you know they’re coming.  It’s only a matter of time.  And, when those injuries hit, his career is pretty much over.  Maybe just rent property in the Maple Grove, don’t buy.

I like the IDEA of Mike Leake more than I think I like the actual pitcher.  I think he’s just okay, but far from special.  He’ll be like Felix in a different way; he’ll probably keep this team in a lot of games (again, if the offense shows up), but he’s rarely going to wow you with his stuff or blow other teams away.

I don’t even really like the idea of Marco Gonzales, much less the actual pitcher.  I think it was a bust of a trade that brought him here, I think he’s only in the rotation because he’s out of minor league options, and while he had a good Spring Training, we all know that means nothing.  These types of pitchers (go ahead and throw Erasmo Ramirez into the mix – who had a great stretch of starts last year, but don’t expect THAT to last), who are just gifted a spot on a 25-man roster due to being out of options, RARELY end up panning out.  If they were worth a damn, they would’ve solidified their status as bona fide Major Leaguers a long time ago.  What are the odds they manage to put it all together – COINCIDENTALLY – the same year they run out of minor league options?  You see my point.

The rest of those guys are just guys.  Iwakuma will never pitch in the Major Leagues again.  Wade LeBlanc has been brought in to be a long reliever, but I could see him getting a spot start or two.  Andrew Moore sucked last year, and didn’t really wow anyone with his Spring.  Chase De Jong is just a guy.  And, while Rob Whalen turned some heads (until his disaster of a final start back on the 18th), he also appears to be just a guy.

The plan with this rotation is to try and limit their innings to 5-6 per start, in the hopes of keeping guys fresh and healthy, and limit the damage opposing offenses can do the third & fourth times through a lineup.  So, the day-to-day management on Servais’ shoulders is going to be pretty hefty.  That’s also going to put a high burden on the bullpen to pick up the slack.  And, since Major League Baseball has stubbornly refused to expand gameday rosters beyond 25 players (in spite of the fact that the game is obviously going in this direction, and therefore teams will need more arms than ever before), that either means over-working your ‘pen, playing with a smaller bench (as it is, there’s usually room for no more than 4 players on your bench, and 1 of those guys has to be a backup catcher), or running guys back and forth from Tacoma to Seattle.  The problem, of course, is when too many starters have too many games in a row where they’re not pitching enough innings, the bullpen is gassed, there aren’t any off-days, there aren’t any guys to bring up from Tacoma, and you’re essentially throwing games away because you just need the starter to pick the team up, regardless of how terrible he is.  With a team like this Mariners team – that often finds itself (in recent seasons) only a handful of games out of the playoffs – they can ill-afford to just throw games away.  Sure, it’s a marathon and all that, but it’s a marathon that ultimately comes down to a couple seconds at the finish line.

I think the Mariners are doing the best with what they have, and the plan is sound in my mind.  But, the pitchers just aren’t good.  And the ones that are good aren’t reliable.  It’s easy for me to see a similar deluge of injuries happening this year, and the whole season just falling apart.

The Bullpen

  • Edwin Diaz
  • Juan Nicasio
  • Nick Vincent
  • James Pazos
  • Marc Rzepczynski
  • Dan Altavilla
  • Casey Lawrence
  • Wade LeBlanc

There are obviously a number of guys starting out in Tacoma, so I’ll stick with the Opening Day 8 for the time being.  Right off the bat, the Mariners lost David Phelps for the season, as I believe he’s going in for Tommy John surgery.  That was going to be a huge part of our late-inning dominance.  Recall we just traded a bunch of prospects to the Marlins for his services before the deadline last year, where he made all of 10 appearances before being shut down with an injury.  Now, he’s out for all of 2018, and this is the final year of his deal before he’s a free agent.  So, not only did we throw a bunch of prospects away, but we wasted $5.5 million dollars this year, just so he can go out next year and pitch for somebody else.  Why would he stay?  Why would the Mariners commit to spending more money on him?  This is Drew Smyly all over again.  GREAT TRADE DIPOTO!

As for the guys who are here, there’s a lot to like about Edwin Diaz and Juan Nicasio.  But, of course, when will Diaz turn back into a pumpkin?  All our other closers – dating back to, I want to say, Kaz Sasaki – have had 1-2 good years before falling apart.  Well, Diaz has been up here for around 1.5 years, so it’s time for him to suck.  As for Nicasio, I’m getting a real Joaquin Benoit vibe.  Remember that guy?  He was around forever, never got hurt, was always a reliable 8th inning guy?  Then, when he donned a Mariners jersey, he was hurt within the first month of the season?  I’m just saying, let’s see the guy do something for a couple months before we get too excited.

Nick Vincent was a workhorse and our most reliable pitcher in 2017.  Of course, he got tuckered out in September, due to all the overuse, so they took it easy on him this Spring.  Yeah, I feel like that’s a bad sign.  If he’s not an arm injury waiting to happen, he’s certainly a terrible pitching season waiting to happen.  Pass.

Lefties Pazos and Scrabble should be okay, but you never know.  Tony Zych was finally shit-canned because he can’t stay healthy; that’s a bummer.  I loved his stuff and thought he had really dominant potential.  In his place, Altavilla has won a job.  He was all over the place last year, but it wouldn’t shock me to see him settle down and have a good year.  Might take a while for this team to realize how much better he is than someone like Vincent (who I expect to struggle early and often), but they’ll probably have no choice but to use Altavilla in some high-leverage situations before too long.

Then, we’ve got a couple of long relievers.  The Mariners brought in Wade LeBlanc, who I guess has been converted to relief?  He’s got no minor league options, so either he comes here and eats up innings like a champ, or he’s cut.  The problem with this signing is, if he’s not absolutely terrific, I have a hard time seeing him stick on the 25-man roster.  This team likes to bring guys up from Tacoma far too often, and needs relievers with minor league options so they can dick them around.  That’s why I like the chances of someone like Casey Lawrence (who I assume still has options, but I refuse to go online to research).  Lawrence had a bonzer Spring Training and essentially came out of nowhere to win a job in the Bigs (he was a starter last year, brought up & down a few times when guys got injured, but wasn’t anything special).  I assume if he does well, he’ll STILL be sent back and forth to and from Tacoma, because Mariners gonna Mariners.

Having a couple of innings-eaters in your bullpen is going to be critical, so here’s hoping those guys manage to keep us in enough games to be relevant.  But, the more of our back-end of the bullpen guys get injured or otherwise have terrible years, the higher the chances this entire house of cards comes crashing down.  To make the playoffs, the Mariners will need to have one of the 5 best bullpens in the American League (maybe even Top 3), to compensate for that disaster of a starting rotation.  Do these guys inspire that sort of confidence?  I gotta say, replacing David Phelps with Wade LeBlanc is a BAD start to this season that’s only going to get worse from here.

The Everyday Players

  1. Dee Gordon (CF)
  2. Jean Segura (SS)
  3. Robinson Cano (2B)
  4. Nelson Cruz (DH)
  5. Kyle Seager (3B)
  6. Mitch Haniger (RF)
  7. Ryon Healy (1B)
  8. Mike Zunino (C)
  9. Ichiro (LF)
  • Mike Marjama (C)
  • Dan Vogelbach (1B)
  • Guillermo Heredia (OF)
  • Andrew Romine (INF)
  • Ben Gamel (OF) – DL
  • Taylor Motter (OF/INF) – Tacoma

I like that lineup.  I like it a lot more with Ben Gamel in the fold, but we probably won’t see him at his best for a while.

I expect Gordon to be fine defensively, but I do expect him to struggle at the plate.  That’ll be rough.  I think Segura will be fine.  I think Cano will be okay (I think we’re still in the gradual stage of his decline; I don’t believe the cliff is here yet).  I think Cruz will have his ups and downs (I could see him succumbing more to injury this year than his past 4 years combined).  Kyle Seager is what he is and I’m going to stop trying to wish into existence another level to his game.  I think Hangier will be good when healthy, but again I think he’ll rarely be healthy.  I think Healy is sort of a nothing guy who might have a few good games here and there, but for the most part will be mediocre.  I think Zunino will be great!  I like him to make a big jump in his game!  Not only will he NOT be sent down to Tacoma to work on his swing, but I think he’ll be in the conversation for the All Star Game (and might even make the team as a backup).  As for Ichiro, I can only see it ending badly.  Final year with Griffey bad.  Like, waived in the first month or two bad.  He’s got no power, he’s down in speed, he had pretty much no Spring Training, and he’s coming off of a minor injury.  Just seems like a recipe for immediate disaster.

I’m interested to see what Marjama brings; I have no opinion one way or the other on what his season will be like.  Vogelbach is the story of Spring Training, but that won’t last.  He won’t get much in the way of playing time, and when he does get a start, he won’t make the most of his opportunities.  Heredia is a nice bench outfielder; hope he’s fully healthy.  Romine is a guy; I could see him getting waived in favor of Motter (who also is just a guy, but a younger, cheaper guy).

This season will go down the toilet in a hurry if guys like Cano, Cruz, and Seager all struggle.  I like Segura to hit, but I could see his power continue to be limited by Safeco and this cold Seattle weather.  And, of course, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that younger guys like Haniger and Zunino do struggle at the plate (injuries aside) and this team is left scrambling.  For the most part, I believe the offense will be okay, and I don’t think ALL those bad things will happen, but I don’t think the offense is good enough to compensate for the shitty pitching.  Frankly, I don’t think ANY offense would be good enough to compensate for the shitty pitching on this team.

The last couple times the Mariners really bottomed out, we went 61-101 (in 2008 & 2010).  I could see something around that number yet again.  My prediction?

65-97

The 2018 Seattle Mariners:  Feel The Excitement It’s Faaaaannnn-Tastic Suck Our Dicks, You’re Just Here For The Beer & Fried Crickets Anyway!

Mr. Dipoto’s Wild Ride

Jerry Dipoto was hired to be Seattle’s general manager on September 28, 2015.  His first major move was claiming Cody Martin off waivers from Oakland on October 19th.  Four days later, he hired Scott Servais to be his manager.  From there, we were off and running in the Jerry Dipoto Era.

He made a lot of moves in the ol’ transactions wire, both large and small.  I tried to pull most of the ones relevant to the 2016 Mariners’ Major League ballclub.  For the purposes of this post, I’m going to go ahead and rank his moves from most impactful to least, with commentary on each.  At the very bottom of the post, I’ll throw in a section with just the transactions in chronological order, so you can see them all lined up in a neat little pile.

Also, if you want to know my overall thoughts on Dipoto’s first year as the GM of the Mariners, you’ll find my closing arguments at the bottom (just before the chronological list of important transactions).  This post has TL;DR written all over it!

12/2/15 – Baltimore Orioles traded C Steve Clevenger to Seattle Mariners for RF Mark Trumbo and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser.

This one feels like cheating, but I’m still putting this at #1 because it’s so laughably lopsided against the Mariners, it harkens back to the Bill Bavasi glory days.  Trumbo was an All Star outfielder on a wild card team who hit 47 homers, 108 RBI, and all around had his best season ever.  Granted, the same problems were still there – a low batting average, a not-great on-base percentage, a shit-ton of strikeouts – but if you’re just talking about the right-handed half of a corner outfield platoon, making just a hair over $9 million, would you rather have his massive bat or Franklin Gutierrez making $2.5 million?  I know we love Guti and all of that, but his defense isn’t all that much better than Trumbo’s, and there’s no comparing the hitting numbers.  Even in a very minor role, Guti still had a down year by his standards.  And, of course, who can forget what we got back in return?  Aside from salary saved (that, as far as I can tell, ended up going to Joaquin Benoit, so *fart noise*), we got a left-handed backup catcher in Steve Clevenger who hardly ever played, then broke a bone in his hand, then said a bunch of racist shit on Twitter, then was suspended for the rest of the year, before ultimately (I’m assuming) being released.  On top of ALL of that, this trade had a direct impact on the standings.  The Orioles probably would’ve made a different move to acquire a power bat, but it almost certainly wouldn’t have been as good.  And, we ended up finishing 3 games behind Baltimore in the wild card.  So, we sent what would become their very best power bat and run producer to our direct rival, who snatched up the final A.L. playoff spot by just a handful of games.  Inauspicious start to say the least.

11/16/15 – Texas Rangers traded CF Leonys Martin and RHP Anthony Bass to Seattle Mariners for RHP Tom Wilhelmsen, CF James Jones and PTBNL (3B Patrick Kivlehan).

Let’s follow that turd sandwich with the opposite of that (vagina pizza?).  The Rangers ended up signing Ian Desmond on a 1-year, $8 million deal later on in the offseason (leaving me to wonder why we just didn’t fucking do that, but whatever), so I don’t totally understand why they were so keen to let Leonys Martin go, but obviously they didn’t see him in their future plans.  Martin ended up starting for us from day 1, playing a superb centerfield, and even blowing away his season high for homers with 15.  All in all, he was slightly better than we thought he’d be, with two more years of Arbitration to go.  While he’ll never be a superstar, he’s a solid offensive piece and an elite defensive talent.  The fact that we ended up getting back 2/3 of this trade for nothing later in the season is the hilarious part, along with the fact that Wilhelmsen was a dumpster fire while wearing a Rangers uniform (and sort of his usual okay self when the alleged double-agent returned to Seattle), and the fact that James Jones is who we thought he was.  We essentially gave the Rangers nothing and got a starting centerfielder for a minimum of 3 years in return.  Not too shabby.

12/18/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Hisashi Iwakuma.

We all know the story of how the Mariners got Iwakuma back in the fold, but if you don’t know, go here and read this.  What I will say is, to anyone making any sort of argument that the Mariners’ cost-cutting measures helped pave the way for Kuma’s return, you can go fuck yourself, because you’re full of shit.  Those moves were made well before we got Kuma back, and were under the assumption that he was going to go elsewhere for a higher guaranteed contract than we were willing to pay.  The owners, to their credit, opted to make room in the budget to bring him back when the opportunity presented itself, and it paid off pretty well, all things considered.  Without Kuma, things could’ve been A LOT worse (I don’t know if I made that point well enough in that linked post up there, but it’s true; the AAA starting prospects were pretty shabby).

12/14/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Steve Cishek.

Two years, $10 million, plus incentives.  He secured 25 saves and blew 7 of them.  That’s a lot of blown saves in what amounted to a little over half a season’s worth of closing ballgames, particularly for a team that finished 3 games out of the wild card.  Overall, his numbers actually look pretty good on the season, and at times he approached the level of dominance he once had back in 2013.  But, a career-high 8 homers allowed really did him in.  He was pretty dominant against righties, but lefties hit 5 of those 8 homers, in significantly fewer plate appearances.  With him losing his job to Edwin Diaz the way he did, he projects to be an 8th inning set up man in 2017, with an outside chance of regaining his closer’s job should Diaz falter in his Sophomore season.

12/9/15 – Milwaukee Brewers traded 1B Adam Lind to Seattle Mariners for RHP Carlos Herrera, RHP Daniel Missaki and RHP Freddy Peralta.

Meet Adam Lind, your left-handed first baseman platoon partner.  He had a few memorable late-game hits (walk-offs and whatnot), but for the most part Lind was a huge disappointment.  His numbers took a significant dive compared to his career norms, and they never really recovered the way we all hoped.  He was essentially a replacement-level player making $8 million.  On the plus side, we likely didn’t give up anyone special to get him, but suffice it to say, first base is the hole that can never be filled.

7/31/16 – Seattle Mariners traded LHP Wade Miley to Baltimore Orioles for LHP Ariel Miranda.

12/7/15 – Boston Red Sox traded RHP Jonathan Aro and LHP Wade Miley to Seattle Mariners for RHP Carson Smith and LHP Roenis Elias.

Ahh, the Miley deals.  I ranked the deal sending him away higher than the deal bringing him in for a couple reasons.  For starters, while he spent more time in Seattle doing everything he could to ruin our playoff chances, we were able to deal him to our main rival in Baltimore, where he proceeded to do everything he could to ruin their playoff chances.  We were able to dump salary (and increase theirs), while at the same time getting in return a potential future starter, at a minimum salary, with many years of club control.  On the flipside, those Red Sox really swindled us good!  Though, it had no effect on the 2016 season, as neither Smith nor Elias hardly played at all due to injuries/ineffectiveness.  The decider could be Jonathan Aro – who made all of one appearance with the big league ballclub – but I’d put my money on Carson Smith returning at some point and being a dominant late-game reliever.

11/5/15 – Seattle Mariners traded SS Brad Miller, 1B Logan Morrison and RHP Danny Farquhar to Tampa Bay Rays for RHP Nathan Karns, LHP C.J. Riefenhauser and CF Boog Powell.

I downgraded this move mostly for the incomplete/unknown nature of the various players involved.  I will say that Brad Miller ended up hitting 30 homers for Tampa, and playing a decent number of games at first base, leading me to wonder what could have been had we held onto him and Trumbo and either platooned them both at first, or at various positions around the field.  Miller’s overall batting numbers are nothing to write home about, but those homers would’ve looked awfully nice in a Seattle uniform.  In return, we got about half a season out of Karns, who was mostly mediocre.  He’s still a starter with lots of club control, but now he’s injured, and I’d say no news is bad news when it comes to his injury, as it doesn’t appear he’s anywhere close to returning to action.  And, if he does, will he ever make good on his promise?  I’m starting to have my doubts.  The one saving grace might be Boog Powell, but he spent most of 2016 suspended for ‘roids or some damn thing.  Besides, at best he appears to be a 4th outfielder, so all in all, I’d say this is another major trade we got killed in.  It particularly hurts because Brad Miller is cheap, versatile, with lots of club control, and we essentially got back nothing in return.

12/3/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent LF Norichika Aoki.

Aoki signed a 2-year deal, but only 2016 was guaranteed.  His 2017 option would’ve vested at 480 plate appearances, but he only managed 467.  He ended up earning just shy of $6 million this year, but lost out on $6 million next year by 13 PA’s.  He likely would’ve had a lot less, but he ended the last two months absolutely on FIRE at the plate, and we couldn’t sit him.  Even with his finish, I’d say he was a net-negative for this team, considering his defense was pretty galling, and his base running was even worse.  The team already has Seth Smith under club control next year, so I can’t imagine we bring Aoki back unless we deal Smith first.  File this under:  Eh, It Was Worth A Shot.

3/30/16 – San Diego Padres traded RHP Nick Vincent to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL.

Faced with a bevy of bullpen injuries in Spring Training, this was an underrated move just before the regular season that ended up paying off.  Until it stopped paying off, like a hot black jack table with a new dealer.  All in all, Nick Vincent was a fine reliever in 2016, but he was savagely over-used, and I can’t really blame Servais for it either, because he didn’t really have a whole lotta options in the first half of the season.  It wasn’t until Dipoto made all of his summer deals when the Mariners could finally cobble together a workable bullpen.  By that point, injuries (directly attributed to said overuse) piled up on Vincent, sending him on a DL stint.  He did return, and was okay, but by that point he was behind a number of superior relievers, which was appropriate.  Vincent should be nobody’s 8th inning guy.  Save him for the blowouts and the extra innings affairs and you’ll be in better shape.

11/23/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent C Chris Iannetta.

He started off hot in April, cooled off in May, and I contend he ended up losing his starter’s job because the team overused him (though, this time I DO blame Servais).  We brought Clevenger in here in that ill-fated Trumbo deal, so why didn’t we use him more?  Was he REALLY that terrible?  If so, why bring him in in the first place?  Seems to me they made a snap judgment in Spring Training, refused to give Clevenger a consistent chance, even though when he did start, he looked pretty okay.  Iannetta, on the other hand, proved to be a pretty big disaster defensively, and his power was drained to zero by the second half of the season.  Now, it’s neither here nor there that Clevenger ended up breaking his hand, opening the door for Mike Zunino’s triumphant return.  All I know is Iannetta is under contract at over $4 million next year, and he figures to be this team’s backup catcher.  Not ideal use of funds.

2/3/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent 1B Dae-ho Lee to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

Oh how I love Dae-ho Lee, let me count the ways!  He started the season by knocking Jesus Montero off the roster, which is always nice.  He secured the right-handed platoon of first base, and ended up by and large outplaying Adam Lind.  On top of that, some early heroics endeared him to the fanbase for all eternity.  But, he did cool off considerably as the season went along, and with that his playing opportunities dwindled.  He spent some time in Tacoma, to regain his swing, but never really made much of an impact in the stretch run.  His defense was a pleasant surprise, and his ability to go the other way kept opposing defenses honest.  Then again, his base running was predictably bad.  But, he was cheap, earning just $1 million, while being worth every penny.  Word is the team wants him back for 2017, and I don’t blame ’em!  I’d like to see him back as well!  I don’t know if he’ll ever be an everyday starter, but I’m curious to see how his game will grow now that he’s got a season’s worth of experience in the Majors.

11/11/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RF Franklin Gutierrez.

As noted above in the Trumbo section, this turned out to be less than ideal.  Complain all you want about there not being any right handed power bats on the market, but we fucking gave one away in Trumbo!  The plus side on Guti is that he’s cheaper, he’s well-liked in the clubhouse, and he doesn’t need to or even want to play everyday.  He’ll always be as prepared as can be in a pinch, so that’s not something to worry about.  But, in the end, he’s another year older, and his body has been ravaged by injuries and illnesses over the years.  His defense has taken a huge step back, and I don’t think any part of his game is ever going to get better; it can, indeed, only get worse.  Sounds like the team wants him back too, but I think that’s a mistake.

7/20/16 – Seattle Mariners traded RHP Jordan Pries and LHP Mike Montgomery to Chicago Cubs for 1B Dan Vogelbach and RHP Paul Blackburn.

Oh what could’ve been with Mike Montgomery.  As I’ve written about repeatedly, this was a deal made to sell high on an iffy bullpen piece, for hopefully a future starter at first base.  Montgomery proved with his ongoing stint with the Cubs that he’s here to stay, and this one might end up backfiring even more depending on how long and impressive his Major League career ends up being.  Shades of Matt Thornton, if you ask me.  In return, Dan Vogelbach, who got a cup of coffee with the Mariners, but still looks pretty raw.  He figures to get a shot in Spring Training (at least in a platoon role), but I have serious doubts.  If anything, he probably figures to be a placeholder until one of our other impressive first base prospects is ready to make the jump.  Don’t be shocked if, come June 2017, D.J. Peterson has supplanted Vogelbach (that is, assuming we don’t go out on the open market to bring in a veteran).

7/26/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded RHP Drew Storen and cash to Seattle Mariners for RHP Joaquin Benoit.

11/12/15 – San Diego Padres traded RHP Joaquin Benoit to Seattle Mariners for RHP Enyel De Los Santos and SS Nelson Ward.

The Joaquin Benoit deals!  He cost upwards of $8 million this year, and he ended up being a total dud, first hitting the DL for a protracted injury, then being a lump of crap upon his return.  Makes you wonder how he was ever good in the first place, but then he went to Toronto and pitched lights out the rest of the year.  Hence why that deal is ranked higher.  I don’t think we gave up much of anything to get him (seemed like a cost-cutting move by the Padres, if anything), but we did end up getting back an interesting piece in Drew Storen.  One of those Change of Scenery deals that ACTUALLY works, as Storen was MUCH better as a member of the Mariners than he was in a Blue Jays uni.  Of course, this move helped/hurt both teams, as Toronto was the other wild card team that had us by 3 games by season’s end.  They got the better of us ever-so-slightly, as Benoit proved to be the healthier option than Storen, and the more important piece to their bullpen than Storen was to ours.  Both are UFA’s this year, and neither figures to make a substantial salary; I could easily see Storen returning to Seattle if the price is right.

2/9/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Joel Peralta to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

6/22/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent Tom Wilhelmsen.

12/8/15 – Oakland Athletics traded RHP Evan Scribner to Seattle Mariners for RHP Trey Cochran-Gill.

I’m going to start lumping a bunch of moves in, as I failed to anticipate how long this post would end up being.  Peralta was a longtime vet brought in on an invite to Spring Training.  He ended up winning a job in our bullpen thanks to lots of injuries ahead of him.  He was also pretty okay in March, but it would not last long.  We ended up designating him for assignment in June, after it was clear his Major League career was done.  Similarly, Tom Wilhelmsen – in on that Leonys Martin deal – had a hard luck stint with the Rangers.  They’d finally had enough of him by June, and we were more than happy to bring him back.  A veteran, making the minimum, familiar with the organization, willing to go to Tacoma to work on some things, while at the same time able to fill in on Seattle’s bullpen that was sort of in shambles at this point of the season.  Wilhelmsen ended up being who we thought he was, which is far from elite, but at the same time far from the waste of space he was for Texas.  Scribner spent the bulk of 2016 on the DL.  He returned in September and was FAR AND AWAY our best reliever in those 12 appearances, giving up 0 runs and only 5 hits in 14 innings.  Where was THAT when we needed it April through August?  He’s under club control for three more years, and if he pitches anywhere close to what he was in September, this trade with Oakland looks MUCH better than it already is.

6/22/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded LHP Wade LeBlanc to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL.

One of these days, I’d like to write a book about Wade LeBlanc’s 2016 season, because something sure as shit doesn’t add up.  We traded for him at probably our lowest point in the season (most likely for cash), and he was inserted into our rotation when most everyone else was injured.  AND HE WAS ALL RIGHT!  He didn’t turn the world on with his smile or anything, but he was somewhat competent!  He had 5 quality starts out of 8, and he looked no worse than Ariel Miranda.  Of course, there’s no point in having both Miranda and LeBlanc in your rotation at the same time, unless you’re just riddled with injuries, but who’s to say LeBlanc couldn’t have taken to a bullpen role?  He sure as shit took to it with Pittsburgh, when we dealt him to the Pirates in September!  He gave up 1 earned run in 12 innings with them!  I hope that PTBNL we get back from the Pirates is something more than just the cash we gave away to the Blue Jays in June.

8/6/16 – Pittsburgh Pirates traded RHP Arquimedes Caminero to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL and Future Considerations (LHP Jake Brentz and RHP Pedro Vasquez).

10/19/15 – Seattle Mariners claimed Cody Martin off waivers from Oakland Athletics.

Caminero came to Seattle and tore the A.L. a new asshole with his 100mph fastball.  Unfortunately, when teams started sitting dead red, and when he lost his command, they tore him a new asshole right back.  You can’t help but be intrigued by a guy like that, and hopefully our coaches are able to work with him mechanically to help him reign in some of that explosiveness.  Regardless, we’ve got 4 more years of club control on a guy with a ton of upside, so I like the move.  As for Cody Martin, I don’t know what to tell you.  He made a couple of spot starts for us, and a few more relief appearances, but other than mop up duty in extra innings games, he didn’t provide much of an impact.  He started primarily with Tacoma, and he figures to do more of the same in 2017.

3/1/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent CF Guillermo Heredia.

8/31/16 – New York Yankees traded RF Ben Gamel to Seattle Mariners for RHP Jio Orozco and RHP Juan De Paula.

I honestly have no idea where Heredia came from, what he was doing for the entirety of the 2015 calendar year, or anything other than we signed him as a free agent out of Cuba.  But, he tore through the minors and was called up to be primarily a defensive replacement in the outfield.  He figures to compete with Ben Gamel, among other guys, to be one of this team’s reserve outfielders.  Heredia bats righty and Gamel lefty, so it’s not like they’re in direct competition, but they sort of are, with Heredia on the inside track considering this organization’s lack of right handed bats.  They’re both for the most part on the same level, talent-wise, with Heredia having the higher ceiling, and Gamel more likely to be Major League-ready.  The 2017 outfield figures to be pretty jam-packed, with centerfield already on lockdown, so guys like Heredia and Gamel have a long way to go.

8/1/16 – Seattle Mariners claimed 1B Mike Freeman off waivers from Arizona Diamondbacks.

6/19/16 – Seattle Mariners traded SS Chris Taylor to Los Angeles Dodgers for RHP Zach Lee.

11/20/15 – Seattle Mariners traded CF Ramon Flores to Milwaukee Brewers for 2B Luis Sardinas.

The Mariners never really figured out their reserve infielder spot.  Ultimately, Shawn O’Malley took the bull by the horns, but he’s not really much better than any of these guys listed here.  Luis Sardinas had the first crack at the job, but quickly proved to be ineffective (ultimately traded away to San Diego in August).  Chris Taylor had about the shortest opportunity I’ve ever seen, but in what I want to say was his only start with us this year, he had 2 errors and was sent away almost immediately afterward.  He ended up predictably doing nothing for the Dodgers (after his leadoff triple with them right after the trade), so no big loss.  Mike Freeman had some memorable plate appearances (particularly in that Anaheim series during Griffey weekend), and should be around to compete for the backup infielder spot next year.

3/17/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Steve Johnson to a minor league contract.

8/6/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded LHP Pat Venditte to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL (2B Tim Lopes).

11/6/15 – Seattle Mariners claimed LF Daniel Robertson off waivers from Los Angeles Angels.

1/12/16 – Los Angeles Dodgers traded RHP Joe Wieland to Seattle Mariners for SS Erick Mejia.

These last deals aren’t really even worth mentioning, but I stuck them down here at the bottom anyway.  Steve Johnson appeared in 16 games, almost exclusively as the very last man in the bullpen.  When it became readily apparent he was a waste of space, we cut him loose in mid-June.  Pat Venditte is the switch-pitcher we brought in, who got his cup of coffee with us in September, almost exclusively in blowout situations.  I don’t know if he’ll ever be much more than a novelty.  Robertson appeared in 9 games, and for the life of me, I can’t remember a thing about any of ’em.  Apparently, they took place in July.  He obviously didn’t make much of an impression, as he didn’t return in September with the rest of the call-ups.  Finally, Joe Wieland appeared in one game, making a spot start on August 12th against the A’s.  He gave up 6 runs in 5 innings, as we lost 6-3.  We ended up trading him to the Braves in September, rendering him as little more than a trivia question answer, and not even an interesting one.

***

So, all in all, how would I rate Jerry Dipoto’s first year on the job?  I’d say of all the moves I listed above, about half of them were good and half of them were bad.  I would say the trades were particularly bad (including the Trumbo, Lind, 1st Miley, and Karns deals) with only the Leonys Martin deal having a real positive impact.  He was able to find a lot of value towards the back-end of the roster, particularly the bullpen, as the season went along, and he was smart to fill the roster with veterans, considering the closing competitive windows of our aging stars.  Ultimately, the Mariners improved by 10 games in his first year, so that’s certainly a feather in his cap.  But, I think a lot of that was achieved by players already here.  Cano having a bounce-back year, Seager improving, Zunino improving, Paxton making more of an impact, and so on and so forth.

What Dipoto needs to do now is find a way to fill some of these holes that are still dogging us.  First base, short stop, corner outfield.  He needs to find cost-effective ways to bolster our pitching staff.  And, let’s face it, he needs a little luck to go his way.  This team is close.  So very close to making the post-season and breaking this streak.  But, at the same time, it’s also pretty damn close from bottoming out yet again.  Is Dipoto the man for the job?  Time will tell, but I’m going to reserve any enthusiasm I have for the man until I see some actual results on the field.

It’s playoffs or bust, Jerry!  You’ll get a “good job” out of me when I see some rings on the fingers of these players.

***

Important Mariners Transactions for the 2016 Season

  • 10/19/15 – Seattle Mariners claimed Cody Martin off waivers from Oakland Athletics.
  • 11/5/15 – Seattle Mariners traded SS Brad Miller, 1B Logan Morrison and RHP Danny Farquhar to Tampa Bay Rays for RHP Nathan Karns, LHP C.J. Riefenhauser and CF Boog Powell.
  • 11/6/15 – Seattle Mariners claimed LF Daniel Robertson off waivers from Los Angeles Angels.
  • 11/11/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RF Franklin Gutierrez.
  • 11/12/15 – San Diego Padres traded RHP Joaquin Benoit to Seattle Mariners for RHP Enyel De Los Santos and SS Nelson Ward.
  • 11/16/15 – Texas Rangers traded CF Leonys Martin and RHP Anthony Bass to Seattle Mariners for RHP Tom Wilhelmsen, CF James Jones and PTBNL (3B Patrick Kivlehan).
  • 11/20/15 – Seattle Mariners traded CF Ramon Flores to Milwaukee Brewers for 2B Luis Sardinas.
  • 11/23/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent C Chris Iannetta.
  • 12/2/15 – Baltimore Orioles traded C Steve Clevenger to Seattle Mariners for RF Mark Trumbo and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser.
  • 12/2/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Justin De Fratus.
  • 12/3/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent LF Norichika Aoki.
  • 12/7/15 – Boston Red Sox traded RHP Jonathan Aro and LHP Wade Miley to Seattle Mariners for RHP Carson Smith and LHP Roenis Elias.
  • 12/8/15 – Oakland Athletics traded RHP Evan Scribner to Seattle Mariners for RHP Trey Cochran-Gill.
  • 12/9/15 – Milwaukee Brewers traded 1B Adam Lind to Seattle Mariners for RHP Carlos Herrera, RHP Daniel Missaki and RHP Freddy Peralta.
  • 12/14/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Steve Cishek.
  • 12/18/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Hisashi Iwakuma.
  • 1/7/16 – Seattle Mariners released RHP Anthony Bass.
  • 1/12/16 – Los Angeles Dodgers traded RHP Joe Wieland to Seattle Mariners for SS Erick Mejia.
  • 2/3/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent 1B Dae-Ho Lee to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
  • 2/9/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Joel Peralta to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
  • 3/1/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent CF Guillermo Heredia.
  • 3/17/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Steve Johnson to a minor league contract.
  • 3/28/16 – Toronto Blue Jays claimed 1B Jesus Montero off waivers from Seattle Mariners.
  • 3/30/16 – San Diego Padres traded RHP Nick Vincent to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL.
  • 5/29/16 – Texas Rangers traded 3B Patrick Kivlehan to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL (RHP Justin De Fratus).
  • 6/2/16 – Seattle Mariners designated RHP Joel Peralta for assignment.
  • 6/17/16 – Seattle Mariners designated RHP Steve Johnson for assignment.
  • 6/19/16 – Seattle Mariners traded SS Chris Taylor to Los Angeles Dodgers for RHP Zach Lee.
  • 6/22/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded LHP Wade LeBlanc to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL.
  • 6/22/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent Tom Wilhelmsen.
  • 7/20/16 – Seattle Mariners traded RHP Jordan Pries and LHP Mike Montgomery to Chicago Cubs for 1B Dan Vogelbach and RHP Paul Blackburn.
  • 7/26/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded RHP Drew Storen and cash to Seattle Mariners for RHP Joaquin Benoit.
  • 7/31/16 – Seattle Mariners traded LHP Wade Miley to Baltimore Orioles for LHP Ariel Miranda.
  • 8/1/16 – Seattle Mariners designated 3B Patrick Kivlehan for assignment.
  • 8/1/16 – Seattle Mariners claimed 1B Mike Freeman off waivers from Arizona Diamondbacks.
  • 8/6/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded LHP Pat Venditte to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL (2B Tim Lopes).
  • 8/6/16 – Pittsburgh Pirates traded RHP Arquimedes Caminero to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL and Future Considerations (LHP Jake Brentz and RHP Pedro Vasquez).
  • 8/15/16 – Seattle Mariners sent Daniel Robertson outright to Tacoma Rainiers.
  • 8/15/16 – Seattle Mariners traded 2B Luis Sardinas to San Diego Padres for Player To Be Named Later.
  • 8/31/16 – New York Yankees traded RF Ben Gamel to Seattle Mariners for RHP Jio Orozco and RHP Juan De Paula.
  • 9/13/16 Seattle Mariners traded LHP Wade LeBlanc to Pittsburgh Pirates for PTBNL.
  • 9/14/16 Seattle Mariners traded RHP Joe Wieland to Atlanta Braves for PTBNL.

The Mariners Are Playing Well & They’re Blowing It

In the last week, the Mariners have lost two games they should have won, and if I’m being overly critical, I’d say they lost three games they should have won, because God damn are the Angels and Brewers terrible.

In the last week, the Mariners have gone 4-3, but they’ve also won 12 of their last 16 and have gone 14-6 in the month of August, either winning or tying every series, as they clawed their way back to within a single game of the 2nd Wild Card spot.

The Mariners are playing well, AND they’re fucking leaving wins on the table.

In the 4 wins this past week, the bullpen pitched 11.2 innings and gave up only 4 runs, all of which were inconsequential (though, some of them were scary, as Edwin Diaz has barely gotten his last two saves, which would make it appear that his first blown save is creeping right around the corner).

In the 3 losses this past week, the bullpen pitched 7.1 innings and gave up a whopping 11 runs, including meltdowns by Vincent, Caminero, Vincent, and Wilhelmsen.

Part of this, I guess, you could argue is on the offense not taking advantage of earlier scoring opportunities.  But, in the three losses, the Mariners are averaging over 5 runs per game.  That SHOULD be enough!

Likewise, some of this also has to do with our rotation being in shambles again.  I love what Ariel Miranda has brought to the table since the Wade Miley trade, but he has yet to throw over 86 pitches in any of his starts, and seems to turn into a pumpkin in the 6th inning.  When you combine him with Wade LeBlanc (meh) and now Cody Martin (SUPER meh), you end up putting too many games in the hand of a bullpen that has proven to be shaky at best.

Yeah, Felix and Iwakuma have been great this year!  But, it would be nice to have Paxton and Walker healthy and pitching effectively.  Maybe, oh, I dunno, have a prolonged stretch where all four of those fuckers are healthy and we are able to slot LeBlanc into the #5 role where he belongs, as opposed to the #3 role he’s been thrust into!  Could that fucking happen for one fucking month of the season, please?

There are still a lot of games with a lot of beatable turds on the schedule, so we gotta stop gagging these things away!  It would be foolish to expect a bullpen to be perfect, but it is abso-fucking-lutely acceptable to expect to save every 3-run lead in the 9th!  I’ll tell you that for one!  Tom Wilhelmsen, you save that shit for when you’re employed by the Texas Rangers!  You keep that bullshit out of our locker room!  And Leonys Martin?  Nori Aoki?  Let’s work on our defense and catch the fucking balls we’re supposed to catch, huh?  You blew that just as much as The Bartender, so don’t think you’re getting off easy.

Focus!  6 weeks to go!  I want playoff baseball and I want it right fucking now!

Mariners Did Just Good Enough, Winning Series In Oakland

On the downside, the Mariners had their 6-game winning streak snapped.  On the plus side, they won a series, as expected.

Let’s call a spade a spade here:  the Oakland Athletics are terrible this year.  To NOT win that series would’ve been a huge disappointment, and quite frankly, something the Same Ol’ Mariners would have done.  As has been noted countless times, all the rest of these games are vitally important.  There’s no screwing around anymore.  Relievers are going to be pushed a little harder, hitters are going to have to focus a little more, and starters are going to be the backbone of this whole fucking thing.

With Taijuan Walker still in Tacoma, finding himself, getting his groove back, or whatever you want to call it (4.1 innings, 4 runs, 6 hits, and 4 fucking walks on Saturday, in what we’ll go ahead and call The Disgruntled Start), the team turned to recent call-up Joe Wieland on Friday to make his first Major League start of the season.  Joe is, what can only be described as a journeyman; a 26 year old veteran of the upper minors, who has 10 career Big League starts to his name.  His numbers in Tacoma this year are less than encouraging (he was really butchered early in the season), but he’s been coming on of late, with 4 of his last 5 starts being of the Quality variety.  I was having my ass kicked by Guns N’ Roses at CenturyLink Field on Friday, so I didn’t see a second of this game, but it sounded like he mostly kept us in the game until they brought him back out there in the 6th inning and he couldn’t get an out (giving up 4 straight singles – including one with the bases loaded – before being pulled).  To be fair, his pitch count was ridiculously low, and he’d been okay after a rocky first, so it would’ve been stupid to pull him after the 5th.

With the dud out of the way, you could sense the Mariners were at a bit of a crossroads there on Saturday.  Would they rebound like champions?  Or, would they Same Ol’ Mariners it up, effectively destroying a lot of the momentum they’ve built up since the All Star Break (and particularly since the Griffey Weekend)?

Well, things were rolling right along with Iwakuma on the mound.  He had a rough 2nd inning where he threw a ton of pitches, but he limited them to 1 run, and really settled down nicely until the 6th, when he was battered around pretty good.  By that time, though, the Mariners put 4 runs on the board, and the bullpen made sure it stuck.  Vincent, Caminero, Wilhelmsen, and Diaz combined for 3.2 innings of 2-hit, 0-walk ball to secure the 4-3 victory.

That brought us to the rubber match yesterday, with Wade “Thank God We Kept The GOOD Wade” LeBlanc on the mound.  Ol’ Wadey-boy had himself a GAME, racking up 7 strikeouts, but like the two guys before him, faltered in the 6th inning.  He still got the Quality Start (making it 5 of 7 this season), as he handed a lead over to the bullpen who made it stick.  We even managed to prevent using Edwin Diaz in back-to-back games (though, to be fair, he did have to warm up in the 9th), as the Mariners won 8-4.

Seager, O’Malley, Aoki, Cruz, and Cano all had fine weekends at the plate, and the team played clean ball for the most part.  Just what the doctor ordered.

Now, we go into Anaheim for a 4-game set, with the Angels on a 10-game losing streak.  Anything less than a 3-1 record would be a REAL disappointment.  It sounds like Joe Wieland will get another chance to take the hill, so hopefully he’ll rebound from a semi-poor performance.  King Felix and Iwakuma will also make starts this series, as well as (hopefully) the return of Paxton from that line drive that hit his elbow.  Go get ’em, boys!

The Mariners Played Past Midnight, Rewarded The Insane Who Stayed Up So Late

I’m not gonna lie to you, it wasn’t looking good last night.  Wade LeBlanc just didn’t have it (certainly a byproduct of the Tigers absolutely destroying soft-tossing left-handed pitching), barely made it through 5 innings while giving up 4 runs, and the offense was sputtering.  Down 3-0, I tuned into the horror show that was the fourth inning.  Cano doubled to lead off the inning and Cruz tripled him in (any competent outfielder would’ve caught that ball for an out, but that’s neither here nor there) to get one back.  With no outs, Dae-ho Lee and Kyle Seager both proceeded to fly out to center, neither of which were deep enough to allow Cruz to tag up (apparently, although it sure seemed like he could’ve scored on Lee’s ball).  Once we officially Iannetta’d up that scoring opportunity, stranding Cruz at third base, I wouldn’t have blamed myself or any of you for changing the channel or just going to bed extra early.  Gotta get that beauty sleep for the Guns N’ Roses show on Friday!

I did, indeed, dip in and out of the game, thanks to various distractions.  I was down a mid-90s Aphex Twin worm hole on YouTube when Kyle Seager bashed his game-tying 3-run home run in the bottom of the 8th, but I was more or less glued to the TV from the 9th inning on.  Every strike out!  Every man left on base!  Every time a guy swung for the fences instead of just trying to get on base and string some hits together!  I was there!  On my couch!  Ready to drop this game like a bad habit at the first sign of danger!

The bullpen, to its credit, was phenomenal.  I can’t keep track of all the roster moves this team has made over the last couple months, so I really don’t know who’s injured, who’s in Tacoma, who’s been picked up by other teams, and apparently how many people we actually have in our bullpen at the moment!  Somewhere in there, in between the trade for Arquimedes Caminero (2 scoreless last night), and the return of Nick Vincent from the DL (1 scoreless, in his first action since June 26th), the Mariners were working with a 6-man bullpen as of yesterday.  That will surely change today – since all 6 of them pitched last night, 1-2 innings each – but all 6 of those guys need to be commended for throwing a combined 9 shutout innings.  Most remarkable of all was probably Tom Wilhelmsen in the 14th, who allowed the bases to be loaded with only 1 out, before somehow getting out of the inning unscathed.  It would be foolish to expect every single member of the bullpen to be ON in the same game, but to see him fight back and get out of trouble was a nice little boost in the 11pm hour.

I won’t lump Ariel Miranda in with the rest of the bullpen, because he was actually slotted to be Friday’s starter in Oakland.  He may still start that day anyway, as yesterday was a regular bullpen day for him, but he sure as shit wasn’t sharp last night.  It might be a coincidence that the Tigers scored all of their runs against the only left-handed pitchers we opted to use Hi Vidal Nuno!, but they seemed to blast Miranda with relative ease, leading me to think they probably hit lefties pretty well over in Detroit.  Granted, Victor Martinez – who hit the go-ahead home run in the top of the 15th – hits everyone well, from both sides of the plate.  But, the next batter had a sharp single to center, followed by 2 line outs to help Miranda get out of the inning.  The fact that Miranda gave up only the one run was probably the best case scenario.

Which brought us to the bottom of the 15th.  The Tigers, in all of that insanity, managed to preserve their closer all that way!  Francisco Rodriguez is a longtime veteran with 418 career saves.  And, by the numbers, it looks like he’s having another rock solid season this year, with 32 saves against only (now) 3 blown saves (after last night’s game).  But, SPOILER ALERT:  the Mariners apparently handle this guy pretty well (I was going to look for the exact numbers, but Baseball Reference is shitting the bed on his splits page right now).  No matter, because last night is all that I care about.  And, in the bottom of the 15th, with one out, Cruz walked, Lind dropped a single into right field (a byproduct of the outfielders playing so deep to “take away the double”), and Seager went the other way with a single-turned-double thanks to an outfield bobble.

THAT, right there, is exactly what I was looking for.  They don’t all have to be walk-off home runs!  Them shits is hard to hit!  But, get you some walks and some singles going, and now you’ve got the pitcher in trouble.  Now, you’ve got the pitcher throwing many multiple pressure pitches.  And, if you find the right guy on the right day, it’s only a matter of time before he succumbs to the pressure and gives you something good to hit.  In this scenario, of course, you have to look at that pitch to Seager – fat, juicy, right in the middle of the plate.  The fact that he went the other way with it – when everyone expects him to pull the ball at all times – was the cherry on top.

The MVP of the game probably goes to Justin Upton on that bobble of Seager’s hit.  If he doesn’t botch-toe that thing, I highly doubt Lind gets to third base.  It’s impossible to know what would’ve happened had he come up with it cleanly, but in this hypothetical scenario, it’s likely Zunino doesn’t get the game winning hit, and he’s followed by Leonys Martin who struck out a whopping 5 times in 6 official at bats (what comes after Golden Sombrero, btw?).  BUT, thanks to Upton, Lind DID get to third base, and all it took was a Zunino sac fly to center – this time, thankfully, deep enough to test the dude’s arm – to bring home the winning run and let us all go to bed early (Wednesday morning).  Shit, if it weren’t for Upton, they might still be playing baseball and I might literally be dead by my own hands!

As I noted above, today the Mariners are certain to make a move for bullpen help.  It’s also the final game in the series, with King Felix on the mound.  I’m sure he’s going to INTEND to bring his A-Game, and try to go at least 8 innings tonight, but he’s been a little dodgy since his return from the DL, so I don’t think it’s something we can depend upon.  However, if he does return to form, tonight would be the perfect time.  Save the bullpen, with an off-day/travel day tomorrow, followed by 20 games in a row.  They’re all important, they’re all must-win, but winning tonight would be extra special.

Mariners Came Up With A Huge Victory In A Game They Had No Business Winning

David Price vs. Wade LeBlanc?  On the heels of two blown saves in a row?  With someone by the name of Guillermo Heredia leading off and Luis Sardinas filling in for Ketel Marte?  Against the best hitting team in the league in the Boston Red Sox?  That game had LOSS written all over it, in giant capital letters.  So of course the Mariners won last night!

Of course, you figure with those circumstances, any plausible victory for the Mariners would have to come against the bullpen, involving some late-inning heroics.  But, you know, you’ve still got to get to those late innings within striking distance!  And here’s where I come back to dish out a little bit of praise for our starter last night.  LeBlanc is absolutely nothing special.  But, he’s had 5 starts now, and 4 of them have been Quality Starts.  He was scraping the bottom of the barrel for a quality start last night, with 3 runs in 6 innings, but that’s pretty much the baseball definition of “keeping them in the ballgame.”  THIS is what, I think, we all expected out of Wade Miley when we initially brought him in here.  And this is why I don’t give a hairy-ass fuck about dealing Miley now for peanuts on the dollar.  Wade Mileys are dimes a fucking dozen!  Wade LeBlanc is one.  Ariel Miranda – getting the start tomorrow – is likely another.

On the other end of the spectrum, Edwin Diaz got the first save of his budding career.  Now that we’ve all taken a deep sigh of relief, we can pull back from the edge of the cliff and try to enjoy this team again.  Of course, he remains the lone reliever we can count upon to do his fucking job, but let us pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.  Look over here!  Diaz is closing!  Everything is awesome!

In between, we had the aforementioned late-game heroics.  Another homer by Zunino – his fourth – brings his slugging percentage up to a whopping .719.  He’s not exactly a brand new hitter or anything, but this is as promising as it gets, compared to where he was last year.  Then, three consecutive singles out of the bottom of our order knocked Price out of the game with a 2-run lead with 2 on and nobody out.  Seth Smith had a pinch hit strikeout, bringing up Robinson Cano against the normally on-point Fernando Abad.  Cano tore into his offering to give us a 5-4 lead, and the rest was history.

At issue now is the fact that the Mariners have been playing exactly .500 ball since the last week of June, with a record of 15-15 over their last 30 games.  It should go without saying that this is NOT the way to get back in the Wild Card race.  There are 57 games left in the season; at this pace, you figure the Mariners will win 28 more times, which would leave us with a year-end record of 81-81.

To have a realistic shot, 90 wins is the benchmark.  To get there, in 57 more games, the Mariners would have to go 37-20, or winning approximately 65% of our games from here on out.  It sounds daunting, but it’s absolutely do-able.  As I talked about Monday, though, the time is now.  The Mariners need to keep winning games they have no business winning, and hold onto those leads they’re supposed to keep.  Go get ’em.

Mariners Finish Trade Deadline Period By Dealing Miley

I’ve been saying all along we need to hold off until we see all the moves in context.  Well, it’s the afternoon of August 1st, and all the major moves have been made (it’s still possible to get rid of someone like Lind – who has a fat contract and doesn’t bring a ton to the table – before the end of the month, but that won’t mean much at this point, as I’ll get into later).

First, we had Montgomery for Vogelbach, and we didn’t know what to think.  That one probably sits more in the camp of The Future than Win Now, but Montgomery is more or less just a bullpen piece at this point, and Vogelbach could be called up to Seattle at any time.

Next, we had Benoit for Storen, which was an obvious Greener Pastures move for two struggling relievers.  Not much insight there (though, again, you see the Mariners go younger to bring in a guy with more upside, even if his contract expires after this year).

Now, we’ve got Wade Miley going to Baltimore for minor league starter Ariel Miranda.  I know I’ve been conducting the Hate Train on Miley pretty much since he started showing us how worthless he is, but there’s no rational way to look at this move as anything other than a sell-off.  Miley was set to earn upwards of $9 million next year, with a club option for 2018 that would’ve paid out $12 million.  At the very least, we avoid that high salary next year and the $500,000 buy-out for 2018 (the Mariners sent no money Baltimore’s way, so it’s all on them now).

I don’t know why people are so upset!  I mean, yeah, I get it, the Mariners are sellers, and not even GOOD sellers.  They sold off scraps and got back question marks.  Part of that, I’m sure, is that there weren’t any good deals out there.  But, you can’t help but see this amalgam of moves as the Mariners – once again – trying to have it both ways.  They get to be sellers without going so far as selling our most prized assets (*cough* NELSON CRUZ *cough*), but they can also say, “Look, we’re still pretty much the same team we were in the first two months, so let’s not totally close the door on this contention thing.”

And sure, I get it, Miley’s been on an upswing recently.  He’s on a run of 3 quality starts in a row, and 4 out of his last 5 starts.  Hell, his most recent outing – Saturday, against the Cubs – was his very best of the season!  But, don’t forget the rest of the starts.  Don’t forget all the bullshit outings we got out of Miley this year.  A guy who was supposed to be – AT WORST – an innings eater, couldn’t even do THAT!  What value does that guy have, who brings nothing to the table whatsoever?  He’s not going to get you some stud prospect.  He’s going to get you exactly who we got.

Ariel Miranda, with 1 career Major League appearance.  Who’s played the bulk of his career in Cuba, who just made Baltimore’s AAA club this season.  He’s a lefty starter with a good fastball (94 mph range) and a good changeup (he’s actually better against righties than lefties), but nothing much going on with his other breaking balls.

In my book, this guy is no worse than Miley RIGHT NOW.

Everyone points to Miley’s experience as the deciding factor, but what does that mean?  I take it to mean you know what you’re going to get with Miley.  That the younger pitcher will be wild and inconsistent from start to start.  Well, look at the breakdown of 29 year old Miley’s starts with the Mariners this year, from April through July:

  1. Bad Start
  2. Bad Start
  3. Really Bad Start
  4. Good Start
  5. Great Start
  6. Good Start
  7. Bad Start
  8. Good Start
  9. Bad Start
  10. Bad Start
  11. Really Bad Start
  12. Great Start
  13. Bad Start
  14. Really Bad Start
  15. Good Start
  16. Bad Start
  17. Good Start
  18. Good Start
  19. Great Start

Tell me, where’s the consistency?  For what it’s worth, a Good Start is like a regular Quality Start; a Great Start is 7 innings or more with 2 runs or less; a Bad Start is 4 runs or more (or a 3-run, 5 inning start); a Really Bad Start is anything less than 5 innings.

Miley has as many Really Bad Starts as Great Starts.  He has more Bad Starts than Good Starts.  That’s not acceptable, at all, from a veteran starter earning as much money as Miley makes.  He’s a fucking washed up joke, and it’s Baltimore’s loss.

You’re telling me Ariel Miranda can’t give us Miley-esque production as a back-end starter right now?  Because I think he can.  And if he does, then boom, the Mariners have already won that trade, because he’s making peanuts, is younger, and has more upside.  He just needs a chance.

If you ask me, the Mariners got better RIGHT NOW, just by getting rid of Miley.

What does this mean going forward though?  It means, starting tonight, the Mariners have to nut up or shut up.  Felix has to round back into his dominant form.  Paxton needs to be a stud.  Walker needs to return and stay healthy.  Iwakuma needs to continue his run of quality pitching.  And one of our 5th starters needs to emerge.  Wade LeBlanc, Ariel Miranda, or Nathan Karns (seems unlikely on the Karns one, but the other two are possibilities).

It means, starting tonight, the bullpen needs to coalesce.  Absolutely NO MORE BLOWN SAVES from Cishek.  If he blows one more game, he’s done as the closer, period.  Keep putting Diaz in there in the most pressure-packed situations and hope he continues to shine.  And the veterans – Wilhelmsen, Nuno, Storen, eventually Furbush, hopefully Vincent – need to be dialed in.

We need two months of pure excellence out of the entire pitching staff in order to get this thing done.  Anything less, and you’re going to see more of the same frustrating .500 ball that we’ve been watching of late.  Because this is it!  This is the team we have, for the final two months of the season.  No more help is walking through that door.  In fact, guys are more likely to leave, if we can find any takers for Lind, Aoki, or Seth Smith (all names I’ve heard bandied about in trade rumors).

But, even if we do find takers, don’t expect to get a lot in return.  Removing Lind, Aoki, or Smith are cost-cutting moves plain and simple.  You only get those guys off your team if you think they won’t be of any help to you reaching the playoffs, and you want to open up some roster spots for younger guys like Vogelbach, like the recently recalled Guillermo Heredia, like whoever else in Tacoma you want to see drink a cup of coffee.

My bet is that this upcoming homestand – starting tonight with 4 against the Red Sox, then 3 against the Angels over the weekend, then 3 more against the Tigers – is going to be the most important homestand of the year.  There’s one off-day this month for the Mariners, and it takes place after that Tigers series.  If you don’t see something like an 8-2 record in those ten games, I think we go into full-on Play For Next Year mode.  I think you start seeing more guys from Tacoma called up.  I think you start seeing guys like Aoki and Lind and maybe even Smith getting released or traded for peanuts.  I think you see a switch at closer, and you see even more crappy Tacoma relievers called up to show what they can do.

That’s because, after the homestand, it’s 20 games in a row, all but 6 on the road.  The Dog Days!  They’re here!  With the August 31st waivers deadline, followed by the September call-ups, if the Mariners haven’t made up a significant chunk of their 5-game deficit in the Wild Card standings, you’re going to see a whole lotta mailing it in.  How soon that starts will be dictated in the next 10 days.

Pressure’s on, Mariners.  Are you going to be like all the other shitty Mariners teams we’ve suffered through recently?  Or, are you actually going to shock the world?

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back In Toronto

The pitching was halfway decent this weekend!  James Paxton went a strong 7 innings on Friday, only giving up 1 run.  Iwakuma & LeBlanc combined to not shit the bed when given 14 runs of support on Saturday.  And even Wade Miley came away with a Miley Quality Start, which is a lot like a regular quality start (6 innings, 2 runs), but should’ve probably been a lot better since he started to falter around pitch 70 and struggled to get through that 6th inning (and, not for nothing, but left the game at 89 pitches, yet had to be pulled before the 7th, because Miley).

All told, it added up to a series win, though fell short of a series sweep, because J.A. Happ has been a fucking machine ever since he left Seattle, because that makes sense.  Because soft-tossing lefties like him – with all that space out there in Safeco Field – should be terrible in Seattle and BETTER everywhere else he’s called home.  Yeah.  That’s just fucking great.  If Happ had been this version of Happ when he was with us, he’d likely still be in Seattle, and we wouldn’t have to suffer Miley’s mediocrity on a regular basis!

I don’t know what you can say about Sunday’s 1-hit effort, aside from it just being one of those days.  Funny though, it seems like Sunday is ALWAYS one of those days, as the Mariners are a whopping 4-12 on The Lord’s Day.  I don’t know what it says about the Mariners that they’re 8-8 on Shomer Shabbos; I think I’ll leave that for the comments section.

I’d like to point out that I’m pretty thrilled with what James Paxton was able to do, against a potent Blue Jays lineup.  Part of me still believes we have something special in this kid, and should make every effort to keep him around.  But, there’s another part of me who wouldn’t mind seeing Chris Sale in a Mariners uniform, and believes Paxton might be the centerpiece of a nice little trade package.  Throw in D.J. Peterson, Vidal Nuno, maybe a couple of lower-level minor leaguers, I think that gets it done!  Come on, we’ll take your prima donna off your hands!

In other news, Hisashi Iwakuma has 11 wins and an ERA under 4 for the first time in forever.  Don’t look now, but he’s in a nice little groove.

Looking ahead, the Mariners have two off-days this week, which is insane when you look into August and see the Mariners will be on a streak – starting this weekend – where they play 33 games in 34 days.  23 of those games happen on the West Coast, so at least that’s something.  But, I just hope everyone has a lot of fun today and Thursday, because those are the last easy days for a while.

2-game series in Pittsburgh starting tomorrow.  Those should be fun.  Then, a 3-game series against the Cubbies that I’m going to miss because I’ll be camping all weekend.